Concepts in Learning

Lately, I've been rereading Ausubel's Educational Psychology (1968).  Ausubel's Assimilation Learning Theory offers one of the best descriptions of conceptual learning I have found in education research. 

Here's a quote from the book that captures but a small picture of his theory:
"Thus preschool children are likely to classify objects on the basis of nonessential, incidental features, spatial and temporal contiguity, or similarity of action and location.  During the elementary-school years, similarity of structure and function becomes a more important classificatory criterion.  With advancing age, however, as children approach adolescence and become verbal-directed and freed from dependence on concrete-empirical experience in their conceptualizing operations, categorical classification on the basis of abstract criterial attributes becomes the dominant mode of organizing experience." 
The core of his theory is on the dictonomy between meaningful learning and rote learning.  An instructor's goal should be to enable students to meaningfully learn class concepts by providing the proper materials in the proper order.  What are those necessary preconditions to meaningful learning?
  1. Clear definitions
  2. Must integrate with students' prior knowledge
  3. Must provide relevant examples
  4. Students must be motivated
While I have some disagreements with Ausubel on the particulars of motivation, these four criteria echo statements made by Peikoff in his Philosophy of Education lecture.  They also share many similarities to Lisa VanDamme's implimentation at VDA.  Objectivists interested in educational and pedagogical theory might find Ausubel's theory a good place to start.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. Would you mind linking to this post on OGrownups? Might spur some discussion.